This project develops a unique, Montreal-specific citizen science curriculum and is looking to expand it to include new post-secondary institutions. Our curriculum furthers students’ understanding of weather, climate, and their related social impacts. We integrate the Data Rescue: Archives and Weather (DRAW, https://citsci.geog.mcgill.ca/) website with student research assignments. The curriculum thus engages students with hands-on experience in data analysis using the data they rescued using the website and links this data to cultural and scientific aspects of Montreal’s heritage.
Through public outreach and citizen science, DRAW involves the Montreal public in the collection and transcription of weather information recorded between 1871 to 1964 in logbooks from the former McGill University Observatory. DRAW in itself constitutes an interdisciplinary effort with researchers from McGill University’s Faculties of Arts, Science and Education, and in partnership with the McGill University Archives.
We first piloted and evaluated DRAW’s CEGEP curriculum in March and April of 2018 at Dawson College in the first year Social Science Research Methods course. The three-week curriculum focused on introducing students to citizen science generally, citizen science in environment and climate based fields and finally the importance of the transcription of historical weather data. We then asked the students to link the historical weather they rescued through the citizen science transcription with contemporary social conditions or events. The course’s main assignment required students to conduct their own research on the time period for which they transcribed data with DRAW by examining how the physical environment, as exemplified by the weather, related to human social, political and cultural processes. After transcribing one (or more) pages on the DRAW website, students referred to online digital and McGill University microfilm resources to investigate the social consequences of climatic or weather events in historical newspaper accounts, photos, texts and other primary sources from the time period. This helped them benefit from undertaking original social science research methods in fields that include historical climate science, archival research, analysis of original source material and data transcription.
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